Watch out for these five hard sell rip-offs!

Have you been pressurised into making bad financial decisions? Steer clear of these five hard sell scams!

I seem to be encountering hard sell tactics everywhere I turn these days.

Perhaps the recession has made salesmen even more ruthless, as they desperately try to revive profits and steer their companies back into the black.

Don't succumb to the pressure of a hard sell rip-off! Here are five that make my blood boil.

1. Cold calls about your phone contract

I've received dozens of these over the years. In a nutshell, a very friendly guy or girl will call and try to get you to renew your phone contract.

Very often, you'll get the impression that they're calling on behalf of your existing network provider. For example, I've been told that "I can see that your contract is coming to an end" when I know full well it has nearly a year to run.

In fact, these people are nothing to do with your network provider at all. If you sign up to a contract they offer you, you could end up paying twice for everything; for your new contract, and for the remainder of your existing one.

Worst hard sell trait: They often call well outside of working hours, like late in the evening or at the weekend.

2. Cold calls about bank charges

I got one of these last week and it left me seething. The man started the conversation with "Hello Miss Cowdy. I just wanted to check on the progress you're making with your recent bid to reclaim your bank charges?".

I've never incurred any penalty charges, let alone made a claim - so I knew straight away he was talking out of his rear. However, people who really are in that position could easily be taken in.

These companies have no existing connection with you or your case. Once they've sucked you in, they will try to persuade you to use their services to help you reclaim your charges - and will take a whopping great cut of the proceeds.

In fact, you can easily deal with claims yourself: Read The ultimate guide to reclaiming bank and card charges to find out more.

When I was called, I should have played along and got the name of the outfit, so I could warn you against them. Unfortunately, my yells of "Ha ha! I got you! Hard luck! I've never MADE any claims!" may have blown my cover...

Worst hard sell trait: They give you the false impression they know about your financial circumstances, to try to trick you into becoming involved with them.

3. Store card selling

This old hard sell rip-off is still going strong. When you're about to buy items in a shop, a staff member will pop up promising great things if you take out a store card.

What they don't mention is the card's interest rate, which is usually horrendous; and the person making the sales pitch usually has very little knowledge of the financial product he or she is selling.

The last time I was offered a store card, I asked what the APR was and the 'pusher' didn't have a clue. Enough said.

Worst hard sell trait: The pushing is done when you're in alien territory. And it's more difficult to simply walk away, because you still want to buy the item you presented at the till!

4. Doorstep energy salesmen

In recent months, quite a few doorstep salesmen have tried to get me to switch energy providers. The worst one tried to frighten me into coming down to open the front door, shouting over the intercom: "You really need to come down and speak to me right now! It's about your power!".

Obviously - once I'd established that there wasn't an electrical fault or a power cut - I spoke to him pretty sternly.

I don't think it's ever a good idea to switch utility providers on the doorstep. You have nothing to compare the offer with, so you can't know whether you're getting the best deal on the market.

You can make a much more rational, informed and calmer decision on your own, using an online comparison service such as's utility comparison centre.

Worst hard sell trait: It can be very difficult to say no to someone once they're inside your home. People often agree to contracts simply to make the seller leave - which is certainly not the right way to make a financial decision!

5. Extended warranties

Whenever someone tries to sell me an extended warranty, I'm struck by the irony of the situation.

The person spends ages trying to sell me the product, going on and on about how reliable it is and how it's never going to break down. Then, as soon as I agree to buy the item, he or she starts telling me how I really should buy an extended warranty - to protect me in case the item breaks down...

The extended warranties sold with products are usually bad value for two reasons:

  • They are often hugely overpriced relative to the item (for example, a £20 extended warranty on a kettle that costs £15).
  • They are littered with so many exclusions that they become almost meaningless. Very often, all they cover are situations in which your statutory rights as a buyer -and/or your home insurance - would protect you anyway.

Worst hard sell trait: Most of the protection they market as 'extra' is something you (and every shopper) are entitled to by law.

How to dodge a hard sell

Remember, the best way to stop a hard seller is just to say a firm, polite no. Put the phone down, shut the door, or walk away.

And never make a financial decision when you're under any sort of hard sell pressure, however good a deal sounds.

If you're genuinely tempted, ask the seller to send you the details in writing, so you can mull the whole thing over in your own time and get back to them.

Very often, they'll refuse and explain that the deal is only available 'right now' and has to be done on the spot. That should ring huge, clanging alarm bells! Walk away fast and deal with a company who respects your right to think things over.

Which hard sell tactics really get your goat? Just leave a comment here and let us know!

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